Paul McCartney best songs rated post Beatles

Paul McCartney had the most successful solo career after The Beatles split, maintaining a constant presence in the British and American charts during the 1970s and ’80s

In America alone, he had nine number one singles and seven number one albums during the first 12 years of his solo career, and in his native United Kingdom, his record was nearly as impressive.

McCartney’s hot streak began in 1970, when he became the first to leave the group. A little more than a year after ‘ breakup, McCartney formed Wings with his wife and guitarist , and the group remained active for the next ten years, racking up a string of hit albums, singles, and tours in the meantime. Wings disbanded in 1980, but McCartney stayed near the top of the charts over the next five years, thanks in part to a couple big duets with . McCartney revived his solo career in 1989 via Flowers in the Dirt and its accompanying international tour, setting a template he would follow into the new millennium, when he’d support his records by playing concerts around the world. Between these massive endeavors, McCartney pursued other projects, including classical compositions, an electronica outfit with called , and overseeing archival projects such as ‘ Anthology series. As the 21st century rolled on, McCartney continued to take risks, including recording an album of standards from the Great American Songbook and collaborating with rapper, proving that there was no area of popular music he couldn’t touch.

We rate his 30 best songs post Beatles

30. Paul McCartney – Secret Friend (1980)

McCartney’s penchant for the musical avant garde dates back to the mid-60s (before John Lennon’s, as he’s often keen to point out). You didn’t hear much from leftfield Macca in the 70s, but he reappeared on Secret Friend, an outtake from McCartney II that sounds, extraordinarily, like abstract, ageless, Balearic techno 10 years early.

29. Wings – Listen to What the Man Said (1975)

You can see why the cheery thumbs-aloft philosophising and perky soprano sax of Listen to What the Man Said may have grated in the Britain of the three-day week, but – as so often with 70s McCartney – you can only gawp in wonder at the apparent effortlessness of its breezy, chugging melody.

28. Wings – Goodnight Tonight (1979)

Not even Macca was immune to the lure of disco – Goodnight Tonight even came out in an extended 12-inch version – although he characteristically adapted the genre to his own ends, rather than vice versa, mixing flamenco guitars, a charming, drowsy half-speed melody and abstract use of a vocoder. And the bass playing is fantastic.

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27. Wings – Arrow Through Me (1979)

Wings went out the way they arrived: with a patchy, largely unloved album. But Back To the Egg contained Arrow Through Me, a rich, intriguingly serpentine take on McCartney in late-70s soft-rock mode. It has recently been rescued from undeserved obscurity, first by Erykah Badu, who sampled it on Gone Baby, Don’t Be Long, and by Harry Styles, who has frequently sung its praises.

26. Paul McCartney – Deep Deep Feeling (2021)

There is a sense that McCartney’s search for a latterday hit has occasionally made him dial down his penchant for experimentation. But it found full flow on the highlight from last year’s McCartney III: the melody is characteristically polished, but it winds through tempo changes, lengthy instrumental passages, falsetto vocals and an acoustic coda.

25. Wings – Letting Go (1975)

In recent years, McCartney has returned to Letting Go onstage, with good reason: a relative flop on release, it is unfairly overlooked, the mid-tempo swampiness of Wings’ performance – they seem to be playing in a vast cloud of weed smoke – counterpointed by the jubilant brightness of the brass arrangement.

24. Paul McCartney – Temporary Secretary (1980)

Off-kilter vocals, frantic synth chatter, a dementedly catchy hook: the sound of McCartney unbound from commercial concerns, Temporary Secretary perfectly demonstrates both why McCartney II was savaged by baffled critics on release – one review suggested its author had “shamed himself” – and its bedroom electronica was drastically re-evaluated in a post-acid house world.

23. Wings – My Love (1973)

On the one hand, with its lush strings and cosseting MOR production, My Love probably fell straight into the category of songs Lennon caustically dubbed “Paul’s granny music”. On the other, it’s so sumptuous, its lyric so evidently heartfelt in its wide-eyed drippiness, that there is something irresistible about it.

22. Paul McCartney – Early Days (2013)

McCartney’s voice has noticeably aged in recent years. Rather than ignore that fact, Early Days puts it to use. It’s not just that this is a great song – although it is – there’s something hugely powerful about hearing a man audibly in his 70s reminiscing, not always fondly, about his early career.

21. Wings – With a Little Luck (1978)

A soft-rock album recorded by a multimillionaire on a luxury yacht in the Virgin Islands, Wings’ London Town was perhaps not the wisest move at the height of punk; it also wasn’t very good. But With a Little Luck is a sweetly affecting restatement of none-more-Macca positivity.

20. Paul McCartney – What’s That You’re Doing? (1982)

A hidden gem from Tug of War, What’s That You’re Doing? is everything the more famous McCartney/Stevie Wonder collaboration Ebony and Ivory isn’t. Rather than the gloopy schmaltz of their big hit, it’s wired and writhingly funky enough to equal Wonder’s 70s albums: high praise, but it’s a fabulous song.

19. Paul McCartney – My Valentine (2012)

McCartney had dabbled in pre-rock’n’roll pop before, on the Beatles’ Honey Pie, the Black Dyke Mills Band’s Thingumybob and Wings’ Baby’s Request, but his self-penned contribution to Kisses on the Bottom, an album of standards, was particularly enchanting: a moody ballad that could have come direct from the Great American Songbook.

18. Paul & Linda McCartney – Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey (1971)

The medley on side two of Abbey Road evidently captivated McCartney: he kept returning to its fragmentary approach during the early 70s. Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey was the Ram album’s ramshackle take on the form, jump-cutting from hazy and dreamlike to perky singalong to a falsetto-voiced oompah interlude. A US No 1, incredibly.

17. Paul McCartney & Elvis Costello – My Brave Face (original demo) (1989)

The version of My Brave Face you need to hear is not the high-gloss single, but the rougher, tougher demo, where the song’s Beatley greatness is more amply evident: McCartney and Costello thrashing at acoustic guitars and harmonising, the latter’s acidic voice a perfect, rather Lennon-esque, foil.

16. Wings – Junior’s Farm (1974)

Situated in a delightful sweet spot between rock riffing and pop smarts, Junior’s Farm also features a rare moment of Macca politicking buried amid the Dylan-esque lyrics, which cheerily suggest a whip-round for “a bag of cement” with which to fashion concrete boots for Richard Nixon.

15. Wings – Little Lamb Dragonfly (1973)

Tucked away amid the uneven contents of Wings’ second album Red Rose Speedway was one of the loveliest melodies McCartney has ever written. Recorded during the Ram sessions and intended for the soundtrack of McCartney’s long-planned Rupert Bear cartoon, Little Lamb Dragonfly is pillow-soft, inexplicably moving and utterly gorgeous.

14. Paul McCartney – No More Lonely Nights (1984)

It says a lot about the lowly critical reputation of mid-80s Macca – and the awfulness of the movie from which it came, Give My Regards to Broad Street – that No More Lonely Nights isn’t lauded as the masterpiece it is. A big hit you never hear nowadays, it’s super-smooth, but a dazzling bit of songwriting.

13. Paul & Linda McCartney – Another Day (1971)

One striking thing about Paul McCartney’s late-60s and early-70s work is the empathy with which it depicts the ordinary people the counterculture tended to sneer at as hopelessly square. Hence Another Day: derided on release for its tender depiction of a woman’s humdrum existence, it is poignant, caring and beautifully written.

12. Paul McCartney – Little Willow (1997)

After decades of frequently unfair critical opprobrium directed McCartney’s way, Flaming Pie was released at the height of Britpop’s Beatlemania, and, if anything, slightly overrated. But there’s nothing not to like about Little Willow’s heartstring-tugging but heartfelt, delicately arranged response to the death of Ringo Starr’s first wife Maureen.

11. Paul McCartney – Junk (1970)

A lot of Beatles offcuts ended up on McCartney’s early solo albums. Sometimes you could see why the other Fabs had rejected them – the cloying Teddy Boy – but Junk is the wonderful “sentimental jamboree” described in one of its lyrics. Passed over for The Beatles and Abbey Road, it is magical: unassuming, twilit and pretty but somehow eerie with it.

10. Paul McCartney – Here Today (1982)

A perfectly poised reaction to Lennon’s murder. The lyrics admit Lennon would have scoffed at their sentimentality and it sounds poignantly like something from the mid-60s, an acoustic-guitar-and-strings sibling of Yesterday. A photo of the manuscript reveals a telling change: the line “I ease my pain” crossed out, replaced with “I love you”.

9. Paul McCartney – Coming Up (album version) (1980)

Rightfully impressed by its tight-but-lo-fi new wavey disco sound,Lennon famously responded to hearing Coming Up on the radio with the immortal exclamation: “Fuck a pig – it’s Paul!” Lennon preferred the home-recorded take on McCartney II to the live version released as a single; he was right about that, too.

8. Paul McCartney – Jenny Wren (2005)

Written, McCartney has admitted, “in conversation with” the Beatles’ Blackbird, Jenny Wren was, like much of Chaos and Creation in the Backyard, acoustic and powerfully stark. Its mood slips from optimistic to troubled and back again; McCartney’s voice is close-miked and intimate; and the solo on a duduk – an Armenian wind instrument – is atmospheric and unexpected.

7. Wings – Jet (1973)

Hard-rocking, euphoric and swaggering, Jet – like a lot of Band on the Run – sounds like McCartney finally finding his post-Beatles mojo. It’s a fantastic song, its fat sound a response to glam; its intro, by some distance, the best – and most subtle – of McCartney’s attempts to incorporate reggae into his sound.

6. Wings – Live and Let Die (1973)

McCartney’s post-Beatles work felt deliberately unassuming, until the challenge of writing the first rock Bond theme forced him into making a grand statement. Still a pyrotechnic-augmented peak in his live shows, Live and Let Die adapts the Abbey Road medley approach – ballad, reggae interlude, orchestral rock riffing – into thrilling high-drama.

5. Paul McCartney – Waterfalls (1980)

McCartney later said he should have held Waterfalls – a catalogue of parental worries set to a slowly sighing melody – back from McCartney II in order to give it the full orchestral treatment, but it’s perfect as it is: there’s something very touching about the fragility of its electronic backing.

4. Wings – Let Me Roll It (1973)

Its swipe of solo Lennon styles – caustic Cold Turkey guitar, Instant Karma-ish slapback echo – led some people to believe Let Me Roll It was aimed at him; McCartney has implied it’s a paean to marijuana. Either way, its stammering riff, raw vocal, and emotional shift from brooding verses to soaring chorus are all incredibly good.

3. Paul & Linda McCartney – The Back Seat of My Car (1971)

There’s a moment during last year’s Get Back documentary series where Macca strikes up The Back Seat of My Car, begging the question: why on earth didn’t the Beatles record this? Audibly inspired by Brian Wilson, its twists and turns amount to an astonishing firework display of melodic talent.

2. Wings – Band on the Run (1973)

Rattled by a mutiny among Wings’ ranks, McCartney defiantly stepped up his game on the subsequent Band on the Run. Its three-songs-in-one title track reflects both his embattled mind state and burst of new confidence. The moment at 2:06 where the mood dramatically lifts, with a vast orchestral riff is a thing of joy-bringing wonder.

1. Paul McCartney – Maybe I’m Amazed (1970)

Amid the low-key, charmingly scrappy contents of McCartney’s eponymous solo debut, Maybe I’m Amazed is a no-further-questions masterpiece, both a pledge of devotion to his new wife and a howl of bewilderment at the Beatles’ collapse (“Maybe I’m a lonely man who’s in the middle of something / That he doesn’t really understand”). The version on McCartney is understated – it suddenly fades in, as if someone pressed record slightly too late; the arrangement is sparse – but that does nothing to dim its slowly mounting emotional power, equal parts anguish and adoration. McCartney subsequently called it the song he would most like to be remembered for.

McCartney’s hot streak began in 1970, when he became the first to leave the group. A little more than a year after ‘ breakup, McCartney formed Wings with his wife and guitarist , and the group remained active for the next ten years, racking up a string of hit albums, singles, and tours in the meantime. Wings disbanded in 1980, but McCartney stayed near the top of the charts over the next five years, thanks in part to a couple big duets with . McCartney revived his solo career in 1989 via Flowers in the Dirt and its accompanying international tour, setting a template he would follow into the new millennium, when he’d support his records by playing concerts around the world. Between these massive endeavors, McCartney pursued other projects, including classical compositions, an electronica outfit with called , and overseeing archival projects such as ‘ Anthology series. As the 21st century rolled on, McCartney continued to take risks, including recording an album of standards from the Great American Songbook and collaborating with rapper, proving that there was no area of popular music he couldn’t touch.

McCartney began exploring creative avenues outside during the late ’60s, but where his bandmates released their own experimental records, McCartney confined himself to writing and producing for other artists, with the exception of his 1966 soundtrack to The Family Way. Following his marriage to on March 12, 1969, McCartney began working at his home studio on his first solo album. He released McCartney in April 1970, two weeks before ‘ Let It Be was scheduled to hit the stores. Prior to the album’s release, he’d announced that were breaking up, against the wishes of the other members. As a result, the tensions between him and the other three members, particularly and , increased and he earned the ill will of many critics. Nevertheless, McCartney became a hit, spending three weeks at the top of the American charts. Early in 1971, he returned with “Another Day,” which became his first hit single as a solo artist. It was followed several months later by Ram, another homemade collection, this time featuring the contributions of his wife.

By the end of 1971, the McCartneys had formed Wings, which was intended to be a full-fledged recording and touring band. Former guitarist and drummer became the group’s other members, and Wings released their first album, Wild Life, in December 1971. Wild Life was greeted with poor reviews and was a relative flop. McCartney and Wings, which now featured former guitarist , spent 1972 as a working band, releasing three singles — the protest “Give Ireland Back to the Irish,” the reggae-fied “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” and the rocking “Hi Hi Hi.” Red Rose Speedway followed in the spring of 1973, and while it received weak reviews, it became his second American number one album. Later in 1973, Wings embarked on their first British tour, at the conclusion of which and left the band. Prior to their departure, McCartney’s theme to the James Bond movie Live and Let Die became a Top Ten hit in the U.S. and U.K. That summer, the remaining Wings proceeded to record a new album in Nigeria. Released late in 1973, Band on the Run was simultaneously McCartney’s best-reviewed album and his most successful, spending four weeks at the top of the U.S. charts and eventually going triple-platinum.

Following the success of Band on the Run, McCartney formed a new version of Wings with guitarist Jimmy McCulloch and drummer Geoff Britton. The new lineup was showcased on the 1974 British single “Junior’s Farm” and the 1975 hit album Venus and Mars. At the Speed of Sound followed in 1976; it was the first Wings record to feature songwriting contributions by the other bandmembers. Nevertheless, the album became a monster success on the basis of two McCartney songs, “Silly Love Songs” and “Let ‘Em In.” Wings supported the album with their first international tour, which broke many attendance records and was captured on the live triple-album Wings Over America (1976). After the tour was completed, Wings rested a bit during 1977, as McCartney released an instrumental version of Ram under the name Thrillington, and produced’s solo album Holly Days. Later that year, Wings released “Mull of Kintyre,” which became the biggest-selling British single of all time, selling over two million copies. Wings followed “Mull of Kintyre” with London Town in 1978, which became another platinum record. After its release, McCulloch left the band to join the re-formed

, and Wings released Back to the Egg in 1979. Though the record went platinum, it failed to produce any big hits. Early in 1980, McCartney was arrested for marijuana possession at the beginning of a Japanese tour; he was imprisoned for ten days and then released, without any charges being pressed.

Wings effectively broke up in the wake of McCartney’s Japanese bust, although its official dissolution was not announced until April 27, 1981, when left the band. Back in England, McCartney recorded McCartney II, which was a one-man band effort like his solo debut. Ironically, the hit single associated with the album was a live take of the song “Coming Up” that had been recorded in Glasgow with Wings in December 1979 and was intended to be the B-side of the 45, with the solo studio recording as the A-side. DJs preferred the live version, however, and it went on to hit number one. Later in 1980, McCartney entered the studio with producer to make Tug of War.

Released in the spring of 1982, Tug of War received the best reviews of any McCartney record since Band on the Run and spawned the number one single with “Ebony and Ivory,” a duet with
that became McCartney’s biggest American hit. In 1983, McCartney sang on “The Girl Is Mine,” the first single from ‘s blockbuster album Thriller. In return, duetted with McCartney on “Say Say Say,” the first single from McCartney’s 1983 album Pipes of Peace and the last number one single of his career. The relationship between and McCartney soured considerably when bought the publishing rights to ‘ songs out from underneath McCartney in 1985.

McCartney directed his first feature film in 1984 with Give My Regards to Broad Street. While the soundtrack, which featured new songs and re-recorded tunes, was a hit, generating the hit single “No More Lonely Nights,” the film was a flop, earning terrible reviews. The following year, he had his last American Top Ten with the theme to the /Dan Aykroyd comedy Spies Like Us. Press to Play (1986) received some strong reviews but was another flop. In 1988, he recorded a collection of rock & roll oldies called Choba B CCCP for release in the U.S.S.R.; it was given official release in the U.S. and U.K. in 1991. For 1989’s Flowers in the Dirt, McCartney co-wrote several songs with ; the pair also wrote songs for ‘s Spike, including the hit “Veronica.” Flowers in the Dirt received the strongest reviews of any McCartney release since Tug of War, and was supported by an extensive international tour, which was captured on the live double-album Tripping the Live Fantastic (1990). For the tour, McCartney hired guitarist and bassist, who would form the core of his band through the remainder of the ’90s.

Early in 1991, McCartney released another live album in the form of Unplugged, which was taken from his appearance on MTV’s acoustic concert program of the same name; it was the first Unplugged album to be released. Later that year, he unveiled Liverpool Oratorio, his first classical work. Another pop album, Off the Ground, followed in 1993, but failed to generate any big hits, despite McCartney’s successful supporting tour. Following the completion of the New World tour, he released another live album, Paul Is Live, in December 1993. In 1994, he released an ambient techno album under the pseudonym
. McCartney premiered his second classical piece, The Leaf, early in 1995 and then began hosting a Westwood One radio series called Oobu Joobu. But his primary activity in 1995, as well as 1996, was ‘ Anthology, which encompassed a lengthy video documentary of the band and the multi-volume release of outtakes and rarities. After Anthology was completed, he released Flaming Pie in summer 1997. A low-key, largely acoustic affair that had some of the same charm of his debut, Flaming Pie was given the strongest reviews McCartney had received in years and was a modest commercial success, debuting at number two on the U.S. and U.K. charts; it was his highest American chart placing since he left. Flaming Pie certainly benefited from the success of Anthology, as did McCartney himself — only a few months before the release of the album in 1997, he received a Knighthood.

On April 17, 1998, died after a three-year struggle with breast cancer. A grieving Paul kept a low profile in the months to follow, but finally returned in fall 1999 with Run Devil Run, a collection that primarily included cover songs. The electronica-based Liverpool Sound Collage followed a year later, and the pop album Driving Rain — a successor, of sorts, to Flaming Pie — came a year after that. The live album Back in the U.S. appeared in America in 2002 with the slightly different international edition, Back in the World, following soon after.

McCartney’s next studio project included sessions with super-producer, the results of which appeared on the mellow Chaos and Creation in the Back Yard, released in late 2005. The album reached the Top Ten in more than a dozen countries, including the U.S. and U.K. McCartney performed every instrument (not including the strings) on 2007’s David Kahne-produced Memory Almost Full, a bold but whimsical collection of new songs, some of which had been recorded before the Chaos and Creation in the Back Yard sessions. It too reached the Top Ten across the world. A live CD/DVD set, Good Evening New York City, appeared in 2009. The following year, McCartney kicked off an extensive reissue campaign with a box set of Band on the Run, and he supported the reissue with an American tour in the summer of 2011.

Later in 2011, McCartney released his first ballet, Ocean’s Kingdom, and less than a year later followed with another first — his first collection of pre-WWII standards. The latter work, titled Kisses on the Bottom, topped the U.S. jazz charts and reached the Top Five in seven different countries. His busy year continued during the summer, when he ended the opening ceremony of London’s 2012 Olympics with a set that included a customary extended version of “Hey Jude.” A surprising cap to 2012 came that December when he appeared on-stage with the surviving ex-members of as part of a benefit concert for victims of Hurricane Sandy.

The year 2013 brought recording sessions with four of McCartney’s favorite producers: Giles Martin, and . His initial intention had been to hold trial sessions with each producer, aiming to select one of them to oversee the whole of his next album. However, each of them had a hand in producing New, his first album of original material in six years, which appeared that October. New debuted in the Top Ten in more than a dozen countries and McCartney supported the album over the next two years with a series of international tours. In 2015, he continued his ongoing Paul McCartney Archive Collection with deluxe reissues of Tug of War and Pipes of Peace. The next summer, he released Pure McCartney, a personally curated overview of his solo career available in two separate incarnations: a double-disc set and a four-disc box. Flowers in the Dirt arrived in early 2017 as part of the singer’s Archive Collection. In September 2018, he delivered the-produced Egypt Station, his 17th solo album; it was preceded by the singles “I Don’t Know,” “Come on to Me,” and “Fuh You.” Egypt Station became McCartney’s first number one album in the U.S. since Tug of War; in the U.K. it debuted at three.

A couple of non-LP tracks from the Egypt Station sessions appeared in 2019, then McCartney released an Archive edition of Flaming Pie in July 2020. The bigger news for 2020 was the recording and release of McCartney III, an album McCartney wrote and recorded on his own during the global lockdown of 2020. McCartney III appeared on December 18, 2020, giving McCartney his first number one album in the U.K. since Flowers in the Dirt; it debuted at two in the U.S. and spawned a 2021 album of “reinterpretations, remixes, and covers” called McCartney III Imagine

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